Alliance in pledge to help boost community relations
Ford: we pass test on a shared future for Ulster
Alliance has flung down the election gauntlet to Peter Robinson and other politicians they accuse of “paying lip service” to the idea of a shared future in Northern Ireland.
Claiming to be the only party which “passes the test” on a shared future policy, leader David Ford set out a series of ambitious aims to help improve community relations in the province.
The proposals, to be included in the Alliance manifesto when it is released next week, include:
- A new law making the Housing Executive “actively encourage” mixed housing.
- New rules to tackle the illegal erection of flags.
- A target of 20% of children in |integrated schools by the year 2020.
The 10-point plan came a week after First Minister Robinson re-iterated his call for a commission to be set up by the next Stormont Executive to examine the way towards increased shared education.
Mr Ford laid down his challenge, saying: “Politicians from other parties increasingly say they are committed to a shared future.
“But what do they mean? Are they prepared to take the really bold steps needed to deliver a shared future?”
The party staged an event at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School on the Whitewell Road in north Belfast, which also featured its first MP, Naomi Long — who defeated Mr Robinson in East Belfast last year — and senior MLA Stephen Farry.
The Justice Minister said the creating of shared spaces in the province, along with the development of more mixed housing and zero tolerance of “illegal and inappropriate” flags and emblems would transform the future of the province.
Referring to the designation system at Stormont — where MLAs self-declare as ‘unionist’, ‘nationalist’ or ‘other’ — he said: “It's time to stop labelling our elected representatives in a way that discriminates against those who vote for change.
“We need to tackle the cost of running a divided society, and commit resources to help communities remove so-called peace walls.
“We also need to deliver laws and strategies that will ensure equality for all, help us deal with our past, and improve community relations.”
Repeating the theme of his election launch last week, Mr Ford went on: “For over 40 years we have refused to accept that our society must be divided.
“We have refused to accept that we must live separately, work |separately, socialise separately and educate our children separately.
“These are the steps we need to take to create a truly shared future.
“They are things that our community needs and they are things that people want.
“Commitment to these actions is the test of whether any party is committed to a genuinely shared future.
“Alliance is the party of a shared future.
“We pass the test, but other parties simply do not.”